Monas, a 132 meter-tall tower that was built to commemorate Indonesia’s struggle for Independence. It was the late and great Sukarno (the first president of Indonesia) who pushed for construction of this tower, inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris (France). Construction began in 1961 and Monas was finally opened to the public in 1975 (five years after Soekarno’s death).
The design of Monas is fairly simple but full of traditional symbolism. Sukarno, himself an architect, did not design the monument (these credits go to Frederich Silaban and R.M. Soedarsono) but played a crucial role by forcing the form of a lingga and yoni, important concepts from Hindu traditions (traditional Javanese and Balinese cultures are highly influenced by Hinduism). These concepts symbolize harmony, fertility and eternal life: the lingga phallic symbol represents masculinity, positive elements, and daytime, while the yoni symbolizes the female organs, representing femininity, negative elements, and night. For Sukarno such concepts were familiar growing up in a traditional Javanese family in East Java (with Balinese influences from his mother’s side of the family).
At Monas you can do two things: firstly, you can go to the (near) top with the elevator to enjoy a great view of Jakarta. Tickets are cheap but the biggest challenge is the long queue. Therefore it is advised to come early (before 10:00 am) to avoid an hours-long wait. This viewing platform (or observation deck) is about 115 meters above ground level, just below the bronze flame which – reportedly – is covered by a layer of gold foil.
Secondly, you can visit the National History Museum and Hall of Independence located in the base of Monas. Here you can view dioramas displaying prehistoric times and Indonesia’s political history (from the precolonial times of Srivijaya and Majapahit to the struggle for Independence from the Dutch colonial power, up to Suharto’s New Order regime). The original text of Sukarno’s Proclamation of Independence – announced on 17 August 1945 in Jakarta – is stored in the Hall of Independence.